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The city of Arnold filed a lawsuit to clarify portions of Missouri’s controversial new gun law.
The lawsuit was filed Jan. 5 in the Jefferson County Circuit Court and says the gun law, which was passed in June and is called the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” is vague and confusing, hampers criminal investigations, is contrary to state and federal law and possibly restricts the hiring of qualified law-enforcement candidates.
“It is the dumbest legislation in my 30-plus years of practicing law,” city attorney Bob Sweeney said. “I have never seen anything this completely incompetent. I have seen other bad legislation, but it was targeted. I have never seen anything so broadly, poorly written that impacts so many people and so seriously. This legislation could actually lead to people dying.”
The law prohibits state and local officials from cooperating with federal officials who attempt to enforce any gun laws, rules, orders or actions that do not have an equivalent in Missouri law. These include statutes covering weapons registration and tracking and possession of firearms by some domestic violence offenders.
It also says a person or entity who deprives Missouri citizens of their right to bear arms can be sued for $50,000 by private citizens who believe their Second Amendment rights have been violated.
The state law also prohibits police from giving “material aid and support” to federal agents and prosecutors in enforcing those “invalid” laws against “law-abiding citizens.”
“The main reason for the lawsuit is not to overturn the law; it is to get clarification,” Arnold Police Chief Bob Shockey said. “There are certain things in that state statute that we believe tie the hands of police officers in Arnold and the state of Missouri.”
In its lawsuit, the city said the state law contains provisions that put city officials and residents at risk, including an apparent prohibition against seizing guns during various investigations, including incidents involving domestic violence, suicide attempts, assaults and people suffering from mental illness or addiction, when law enforcement officers cannot determine if a gun is, or will be, evidence.
Arnold also said in the suit that the law prohibits officers from entering information into federal databases, putting the city at risk of being ineligible to receive state or federal funds.
The lawsuit also said the gun law prohibits police from using federal resources and investigative tools, like the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, hindering the city’s ability to investigate potentially violent and dangerous crimes that threaten safety, as well as impeding ongoing efforts to prevent terrorist activity in the city, state and the U.S.
Denying access to federal databases also may prevent officers from returning guns to their rightful owners because of difficulty verifying ownership of the weapons.
The city also said the law hampers the recruitment, hiring and retention of law enforcement officers employed by or affiliated with any federal law enforcement agency or the U.S. military, which puts the city in conflict with the Federal Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 that prohibits discrimination based on military service.
“This is anti-law enforcement legislation wrapped up like a pro-gun, pro-law enforcement legislation,” Sweeney said.
The city of St. Louis, St. Louis County and Jackson County also have filed a lawsuit over the gun law.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, filed legislation to repeal parts of the gun law, and Cole County Judge Daniel Green’s ruling that upheld the law is being appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.
Rizzo’s proposed legislation removes provisions that threaten law enforcement officers with fines and penalties if they help with federal firearms investigations. The bill also would close a loophole that currently allows violent, convicted criminals to buy and keep deadly firearms.
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